In light of the protests and riots of 2020, we saw numerous high-profile brands take stands on the hot-ticket, contentious issues. Now that the dust has settled, do these brands still support these causes the way they did six months ago? The answer is telling. Social responsibility & ethical marketing applies not only to how your business reacts when the stakes are high but how you act when things are okay. The wholesale lesson is this: social responsibility and ethical marketing is a year-round, genuine commitment.
What is Social Responsibility and Ethical Marketing?
Social responsibility is more than your business putting out recycling bins. It means committing to values that foster inclusivity and make the world a better place authentically treating your customers like they matter. It means engaging in honest, customer-first business practices, even when your customers aren’t watching.
Ethical marketing means more than advertising honestly. It means committing to not spying on your customers or handling their data in unscrupulous ways. The best way to commit to ethical marketing is to be completely transparent with your business practices, from front-line employees to the CEO. Some things, like innovative designs in the pipeline, can be held close to the vest, but your mission statement, values, and advertising should be completely transparent.
Social responsibility and ethical marketing is about developing trust with your audience, as trust is among the most important factors when it comes to making a purchase. When your customers trust your business implicitly, they’ll come to you for anything. Your customers will look for ways to do business with you even when it’s not convenient. They’ll even buy your products when they don’t need them!
More Than a Transaction
Your customers are looking for more than a transaction. They want to buy from brands with whom they connect. A 2020 Consumer Culture report from 5W Public Relations found 71% of customers prefer to buy from brands whose values mirror their own. To many customers, that means brands that openly support causes like racial/social justice, LGBTQ+ rights, or environmental responsibility.
While there are earmarked days and months for various causes, like LGBTQ+ Pride Month in June, customers are looking for more than a one-time commitment. In fact, that has led some of the biggest brands to create entire departments committed to corporate social responsibility, or CSR. As such, corporate responsibility has become more than just a marketing strategy, it’s a necessity.
What happens if you take a stance that your audience doesn’t agree with? Roughly two-thirds of millennials have admitted to boycotting a brand or business whose values didn’t align with their own. It all goes back to knowing your audience; if you think it might rub your audience the wrong way, don’t do it.
How to Practice Social Responsibility and Ethical Marketing
Again, the best thing you can do today is to be as transparent as possible. It goes without saying, but don’t mislead your customers. The general public should be able to see your mission statement, so they’ll be able to know whether or not you’re living up to what your business stands for.
There’s nothing wrong with zeroing in on a specific market segment and focusing your ads on that demographic. It’s not okay, however, to manipulate them. While advertising based on emotion certainly has its merits, your customers want to be sympathized with, not patronized. Show them you understand their emotions without being pushy.
Instead of saying “buy product X to alleviate problem Y”, say something like “we understand what it’s like to deal with problem Y. That’s why we created product X, which has features A, B, and C to [add value and make your life easier]”. Remember, don’t exaggerate or make unsubstantiated claims.
Your customers are looking to make a connection with your business. The more you nurture that relationship with honesty, high-quality service, and ethical marketing, the better chance you’ll have of fostering lifetime relationships with a large number of customers.